Bengaluru is known as the Silicon Valley of India. It is commonly referred to as the IT capital of India since it accounts for 70% of the exports in the IT industry in the country. A lot of credit for making Bengaluru as the IT capital goes to the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, SM Krishna. SM Krishna has had a long and successful career in Indian politics wherein he has occupied many positions at both state and national level. He was the Chief Minister of Karnataka from 1999 to 2004, the Governor of Maharashtra from 2004 to 2008, and was the Minister of External Affairs in the Government of India from 2009 to 2012. Now he is all set to begin a new innings in his political career as he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. Here is a brief look at how his more than 50-year-old political career has turned out.
SM Krishna started his career from the Praja Socialist Party in 1962, the year India and China were indulged in a bitter war. He was elected for the very first time to the Karnataka Legislative Assembly in the same year. He joined the Congress Party in 1971 and was elected to the Lok Sabha from his home constituency, Mandya. But he was called back to Karnataka to serve as the Minister of Commerce & Industries under the Devaraj Urs led government. After the end of his term, he was again called to the national stage by the party and was elected once again to the Lok Sabha from Mandya in 1980. He served as the Minister of State for Industry from 1983 to 1984 under the Indira Gandhi led government and later as the Minister of State for Finance from 1984 to 1985 under the Rajiv Gandhi led government.
After the Congress Party was routed in the 1989 General Elections, SM Krishna returned to Karnataka and the Congress Party obtained a resounding victory in the assembly elections. Krishna himself was elected to the Legislative Assembly and was made the Speaker of the Assembly, the position that he held till 1993 after which he was promoted and named as the Deputy Chief Minister in the Veerappa Moily led government. The Congress party lost in the 1994 Karnataka Assembly elections and the Janata Dal under the leadership of HD Deve Gowda came into power.
SM Krishna was then elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1996 and later made the President of the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) in 1999. Due to his leadership, the Congress Party swept the assembly elections in 1999 and he was sworn in as the 16th Chief Minister of Karnataka. Krishna was a pro urban, pro Bengaluru, proactive CM who greatly improved the image of Bengaluru as a global city. N Chandrababu Naidu was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh at that time and was trying to dislodge Bengaluru as the IT capital of India and put Hyderabad in its place. Krishna’s counter approach made sure that both the cities developed equally and even now, both are among India’s best cities.
SM Krishna also initiated reforms in the power sector by setting up ESCOM’s and digitized the land records through BHOOMI scheme. He encouraged private-public cooperation and setup the Bangalore Advance Task Force, consisting of private and public individuals. He also tried to ease the traffic by building flyovers, which weren’t common. Hebbal Flyover, which is one of India’s longest flyovers was constructed during his regime. To ease the drought like situation, he tried to initiate cloud seeding programmes. During his reign, two issues troubled him a lot. First one was the kidnapping of Kannada icon Dr Rajkumar by the forest brigand Veerappan and the second one was the never ending Kaveri issue which had hit the rock bottom. Krishna successfully negotiated with Veerappan and ensured that the legendary Dr Rajkumar returned home without a scratch. When the Kaveri issue threatened to escalate, he undertook a padayatra in his home district Mandya to reassure the farmers in the Kaveri basin that their government hadn’t abandoned them.
Krishna’s initiatives made him very popular and to this day, he is admired by the people of Karnataka. He is considered to be the best CM, Karnataka has had in the past 20 years. However, his pro urban and pro Bengaluru image was criticized by the opposition and he was accused of neglecting other parts of the state. As a result of this, the Congress Party performed poorly in the 2004 Assembly elections in which the BJP emerged as the single largest party for the first time in its history. The Congress Party entered into a coalition with the JD(S) and formed the government in the state. However, SM Krishna was moved from Karnataka and was made the Governor of Maharashtra.
In 2008, SM Krishna resigned from the post with the intention of returning to Karnataka for the assembly elections.
However, in 2008, the Congress Party was defeated and for the first time ever, the BJP came into power in the Southern part of the country. Krishna was then moved to the centre and was made the Minister of External Affairs in the Manmohan Singh led government in 2009. Although he committed a huge blunder and embarrassed the government on one occasion, he on the whole had a good tenure. As the foreign minister, he made sure that the NRI couple, Bhattacharyas did not lose their children to the ridiculous laws in Norway. This was in sharp contrast to his successor Salman Khurshid, who wasn’t proactive as Krishna had been and because of which another Indian couple were found guilty and sentenced to jail for child abuse. Khurshid referred to this issue as the private problem of the family and did not put any kind of pressure on the Norwegian government like Krishna had done.
Funny thing is that SM Krishna was dropped in 2012 so that the youth could take over and facilitate his return to Karnataka politics. However, his replacement Khurshid can in no way be called a younger politician. On his return, he was subsequently ignored by the Karnataka politicians of the Congress Party. Karnataka Congress now was divided into two power factions, which were led by KJ George and Krishna’s own protégé DK Shivakumar. That’s how the Congress is now in Karnataka. KJG and DKS have the maximum influence on the Siddaramaiah led government. Krishna was neglected by the party and he was unhappy with the way Rahul Gandhi was leading the party. Upset with Rahul’s elevation and for being sidelined, he quit the Congress Party on January 31, 2017.
Now he is all set to join the BJP. Krishna’s entry into the BJP is a huge advantage for the party. A person of SM Krishna’s experience who has worked as a legislator, parliamentarian, minister in state and national cabinets, speaker, governor, and most importantly as the CM of a state that is due for polls next year, is a huge advantage for the party. Krishna has a very positive image in the minds of Kannadigas and this will work out again in the favour of the BJP. The most dominant communities in Karnataka are the Vokkaliga and the Lingayat communities. The BJP enjoys a good rapport with Lingayats because of party President BS Yediyurappa. Lingayats make up 18-19% of the population. Krishna belongs to the Vokkaliga community and he has every ability to swing the Vokkaliga votes in BJP’s favour. US educated, pro urban SM Krishna is a huge addition to the BJP and definitely enhances the prospects of the party in Karnataka.